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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How city workers pulled off alleged scam

By Lance Williams,Stephanie Rice

It was their own Treasure Island.

Bored and unsupervised, five highly paid electricians working for the city of San Francisco spent years allegedly stealing from taxpayers during a remarkable binge that investigators say involved sex parties with prostitutes, moonlighting on city time and fraudulent billing to pay for their suburban lifestyles.

They allegedly charged the city hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal purchases, including BMW tires, lease payments on a truck and even remodeling a home in Contra Costa County's tony Blackhawk subdivision. The men are accused of running a private contracting business on city time, collecting government paychecks while working on unauthorized jobs and billing the costs to taxpayers as well.

They also are accused of hiring prostitutes for sexual encounters at their remote worksite on the former Navy base in San Francisco Bay and stocking a private bedroom in their office suite with liquor, condoms, Viagra and pornographic DVDs.

They were known as the Hetch Hetchy Power Crew, an elite unit named for the reservoir in Yosemite National Park that supplies the city with hydroelectric power. Their difficult, sometimes dangerous job was to maintain the city's high-voltage electrical system, especially during emergencies.

Five members of the power crew were arrested last year after a whistle-blower complained that crew leader Donnie Alan Thomas, 46, was moonlighting on city time. The men, along with two women accused of creating fake invoices to further the scheme, are awaiting trial in San Francisco Superior Court on felony charges. All have pleaded not guilty.



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